When a football kit manufacturer decides to rip up the rule book and completely reinvent what's gone before, it has several options to help it achieve its objectives. It can add an eye-catching motif to the shirt here or there - a stripe or a block of colour, perhaps. It can add extra detail or interest to make the shirt more complex in its make-up. Or, as with Kappa's approach to the Italy shirt of 2000-01, it can go in the opposite direction by simplifying things in a brilliantly innovative way. This is the masterpiece that came about from that little exercise:
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Their first idea was to change the tone of blue - a potentially controversial move, but one based on precedent as the Italy shirts of the 1950's had a similar hue. If you go back to the 1930's, you'll see that the shade of blue is even lighter, but I digress. Though a little jarring when first seen 15 years ago, it undoubtedly has a softer quality than the deep, rich blue we've come to associate with the Italian team.
Next, Kappa did away with the collar, opting instead for a simple round neckline in the same colour as the rest of the shirt. After that, they moved their own logo to the sleeves of the shirt to leave the body decorated only by the traditional 'shield' badge of the Italian Football Federation.
The final change, however, was a master-stroke. To compensate for an apparent lack of detail, Kappa used decorative stitch-work in a darker shade of blue to create a feature in its own right. Providing a border around the neckline, under the arms and down the sides of the shirt, this was a genius move that added to the overall look without spoiling the simplicity that had already been implemented elsewhere.
If anything, the addition of a white squad number in the middle of the chest (as seen during Euro 2000) made the shirt even more complete, but it was by no means necessary. Even the slightly slimmer fit provided an extra distinction that separated it from most other shirts seen around the same time.
All in all, this was a glorious symphony of subtlety and style that did much to boost not only the Italian national team but also Kappa themselves. Proving that less can most certainly be more, Italy's greatest football stars have rarely looked better on the international stage.
Written by Chris Oakley (The Football Attic).
This shirt is part of The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever. The full list can be viewed here.